Understanding Child Visitation Rights in Texas
In Texas, child visitation rights are taken seriously, and the law provides mechanisms to enforce these rights when they are denied. Understanding these rights and the steps to enforce them is crucial for parents who find themselves in the difficult position of being denied access to their children.
The Texas Standard Possession Order
The Texas Family Code sets forth a standard possession order (SPO) which outlines default visitation schedules for non-custodial parents. These schedules typically include the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month, Thursday evenings during the school year, alternating holidays, and extended time during summer vacations.
Steps for Enforcing Visitation Rights
If a custodial parent denies visitation without legal justification, the non-custodial parent can take several steps to enforce their rights:
- Filing a Motion for Enforcement: This legal document is filed with the court that issued the original custody order. The motion must detail the specifics of how the order was violated.
- Seeking Contempt of Court: If visitation rights are denied, the violator may be held in contempt of court. This could result in fines or even jail time for the custodial parent.
- Modifying the Custody Order: In some cases, continued denial of visitation may lead to a modification of the original custody order, potentially giving the non-custodial parent more time with the child or even changing custody arrangements.
- Involvement of Law Enforcement: While police generally do not get involved in civil matters like visitation, there are instances where they can assist in enforcing a court-ordered schedule.
- Seeking Attorney's Fees: The court may order the custodial parent to pay for attorney's fees if found in contempt for denying visitation rights.
A case that underscores the importance of adhering to court-ordered visitation is Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). Although it primarily dealt with marriage laws, it also touched upon issues of family integrity and set a precedent for considering the best interests of children in family law proceedings.
The Role of Mediation
Before taking legal action, parties are encouraged to seek mediation to resolve disputes amicably. Mediators can help facilitate discussions and find solutions that respect both parties' rights while prioritizing children's well-being.
Texas law provides clear avenues for non-custodial parents to enforce their visitation rights. Whether through filing a motion for enforcement or seeking alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation, there are means available to address denials of access to one's child. It's essential for affected parents to understand their rights and take appropriate action to ensure those rights are upheld.